Your Coins Tie Them to the Street
By Jesús Aguado
Zucchini, flowers, gum, and tortillas are some of the products that the street children sell. The children are good vendors. If a potential customer declines to purchase, they ask for money for a soda or a coin for food.
These children are working on the streets because their parents force them to do it or because they like the economic benefit. But if you buy their products or give them money, it does them no good. It will not improve their lives. Children should be children and enjoy their childhood. For them and for the parents, there are plentiful opportunities for succeeding offered by the municipal DIF (Department for Family Integral Development).
In the morning, public transportation services arrive in the city from rural communities like San Lucas, El Pueblito, Don Francisco, and San Damian, bringing with them vendors who have space in the tianguis area of the Mercado Ignacio Ramírez or who sell their products without a permit in the Historic Center and the neighborhoods nearby.
Children who do not go to school also arrive, and they have to support the home economy. Daily, especially during vacation times, the kids can be seen on the streets offering their products, sometimes carrying a child wrapped in a shawl on their backs.
In the Jardín Principal, Rosita—a sixteen-year-old girl—was walking with her sister Tere and carrying her small brother. Rosita told Atención that she was from the rural community of San Lucas. She had finished secondary school, but she did not find a job and had to come to the city to sell flowers and beg for money.
The Public Services Department issues the permits to street vendors through its Department of Markets. Article 10 of the Market Regulations states that permits will never be granted to people under 15 years old. If they are 15, permission from the parents is required for issuing the document.
Ángel Martín Saavedra, responsible for the Market Department commented that in other administrations, when the underage people were unemployed, the parents—who were already vendors—used to go to the Public Services Department to beg for permits for their underage children, “and they were granted. But in this administration they are forbidden.”
Although it is not included in the regulation, when the Department grants a permit, the holder is requested not to have children selling with him or her. Saavedra said in addition that when the vendors do not have permits, they are asked to leave the Historic Center. “They are humble people; they are shy people who do not accept the recommendation for going to the DIF system to find other alternatives for improving their lives. Above all else, when they have working children, they are even less receptive. But we get support from the experts at the municipal DIF,” said Saavedra.
Saavedra concluded by saying that sometimes the vendors without permits feel intimidated by the inspectors, and onlookers can believe they have been mistreated. “But that is not the case; we want to channel them to the DIF so they can get other opportunities, even a place to legally sell their products.”
The number of vendors working with children is unknown, and it depends on the season and the day. Saavedra remarked that sometimes there are 10 children and, during the vacations season, there can be up to 50 selling or begging for money.
Tu moneda me ata a la calle
“Your Coin Ties Me to the Street” is the campaign directed to the visitors and residents of the city to raise awareness of how a coin does not improve children’s lives. According to the president of the Municipal DIF, Emilia Vega, it is a campaign that intends to eliminate child labor in the Historic Center and across the urban area.
“We want people to know that the DIF system is concerned about children and the eradication of child labor,” commented Vega. To succeed in this enterprise, ten people are working at the consolidated project of Casa Esperanza, a place where children are protected and fed while their parents are working. It is not because they live on the streets. They do have homes, but they are on the streets. It does not necessarily mean that their parents force them to work, but they notice the economic benefit of receiving money. The campaign is to raise awareness that a coin is not going to change their lives. “They are children, and they belong in school, not on the streets,” Vega summarized.
While the parents work, children must be safe. Casa Esperanza, a project that has been consolidated with DIF, daily shelters up to 200 children from 3 to 15 years old who would be on the street. At this center in colonia San Rafael, children are fed, cared for, educated, and trained in arts and sports activities like boxing, judo, and Tae Kwon Do.
At the workshops in the School for Parents, specialists from DIF talk with them about the risks that the children can face if they are on the streets. Vega asks them not to give coins to children but to report any situation of children selling on the street so they can be channeled to Casa Esperanza, where they will be safe. For more information, call DIF at 152 0910.
Emilia Vega commented that DIF has 14 programs. One of them is focused on the elderly who are fed and have activities during the entire day at the DIF facilities at the corner of Insurgentes and San Antonio Abad. If beggars are in midlife, DIF can offer them projects to start working on by themselves and become self-sustainable without begging for money.
At a workshop
“I love sharing my knowledge with these marvelous human beings. Besides I learn from their sweetness, the imagination that they put into their work,” teacher Irazú told Atención while the children were working with watercolors. “In this workshop I just want them to live happy moments; I want them to be happy and learn in an environment of safety. I want them to learn that they can have love and see the world with the same love,” commented Irazú.
Casa Esperanza works with at least 20 civil organizations. One of them is La Biblioteca. This year, Irazú decided to be a volunteer at Casa Esperanza and teach the children all the techniques they can learn about painting.
If you want to volunteer or help the Casa Esperanza, call 154 9382 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org